A Week on the Farm

When I was 18 I worked for a summer on my friend Franny’s family’s farm, AtoZ Produce and Bakery in Stockholm, Wisconsin. It was one of the best summers of my life, a combination of fun people, hard work, good food, and a whole summer with one of my favorite friends.

I haven’t been back to visit since then, so I was looking forward to visiting on this road trip. We planned to visit for a couple of nights, but since our truck was being worked on in La Crosse, Franny’s parents Ted and Robbi kindly took us in for the week.

Ted & Robbi

Ted and Robbi are the hardest working people I’ve ever met, and also some of the friendliest and most down-to-earth. They are farmers, chefs, bakers, homesteaders and so much more.

Their farm is famous for its Pizza Night—every Tuesday people come from as far as two hours away to picnic on the farm and eat pizza that Ted and Robbi make in their wood-fired brick ovens. Except for the flour, olives and cheese, all the ingredients that they use on their pizza come from the farm.

Doris

They raise cows, pigs and sheep that end up on pizza as well as growing vegetables and tomatoes to use as toppings.

They also grow their own wheat and grind it themselves to bake sourdough bread that they sell in several locations along the Mississippi.

Their oxen and Francesca, the milking cow.

They have a milk cow for cream, milk, butter, and their homemade cheeses (they can only make cheese for themselves—in Wisconsin you need a cheese makers license to make cheese to sell).

Lula gets some milk!

They also grow a variety of vegetables for themselves and for their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and grow nearly everything they eat from beans to greens to food that they preserve like spicy pickled peppers, and homemade pasta sauces.

Over the seasons they’ve trained a lot of young folks who have gone on to start their own farms. They have two women working on the farm right now, Britt and Lauren, who had us over to their house for game nights and a campfire while we were visiting.

Our room is the old milk house which has been converted into a guest room. We’re under the hay loft so we can smell the fresh cut hay when we wake up in the morning, and close to their commercial kitchen, where we hear Ted baking bread in the early hours of the morning.

The farm has changed a lot since I was here, but is also the same in so many ways, it really takes me back to when I was here that summer.

Putting away some fresh cut hay.

Pizza night is like working party, with jazz turned up loud in the kitchen, pizzas whizzing in and out of the brick ovens and people picnicking all over the lawn.

All of our meals here have been fresh, delicious and unexpected—combinations we never thought of, fresh vegetables prepared in simple yet perfect ways.

While we were here we also carpooled into Minneapolis with Britt to go see Franny, who lives there now, and my friend Fiona, whom I hadn’t seen in many years.

We needed a break from from the road—apparently Truck did too—and this was a great place to spend a week. While we were here we built Ted and Robbi a new website for the farm, which we’ll launch when we get home later this month. We enjoyed taking a lot of photos for the site, trying to capture a little of the flavor of this place, which is pretty magical.

As fun as it has been, we are excited to pick up Truck tomorrow and head to South Dakota.

P.S. Almost all of the photos on this blog are Jim’s.

mel-portrait-sq

Melissa

Melissa is the co-pilot, list-maker, and truck-packing-tetris-master of the trip. She hopes to do yoga in the fresh air every morning of the trip, weather permitting. At Apple Canyon Designs, she’s the project manager and copywriter, as well as working with Jim on photography and video.